Veterinarian Steve Ekholm of Walker Animal Hospital was recently recognized by the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) as a veterinary health hero.

The following excerpt is from the MVMA November/December 2019 Newsletter:

This veterinary public health hero story is about blastomycosis, a serious fungal disease that has been in the news this fall. Dr. Steve Ekholm and practice manager/U of M third year veterinary student Annika Arrowwood (also Steve’s daughter) from Walker Animal Hospital notified the Minnesota Department of Health that they were seeing an unusual number of blastomycosis cases in dogs.

Malia Ireland, DVM, MPH, an epidemiologist responsible for human and animal endemic fungal disease surveillance, confirmed those impressions. Eleven canine cases had been reported from the Walker area in 2019, and the usual would have been five. In addition, Ireland found that canine cases from Cass County as a whole were double the expected number over the last year, and there was an increase in human cases throughout the state.

As a result of the Walker Animal Hospital  report, Ireland released a health advisory asking healthcare providers to be alert for cases of blastomycosis. A local physician credits the health advisory for prompting her to test a patient for blastomycosis sooner than she would have otherwise.

The patient was part of a group of four young women who went tubing in Wisconsin. A few weeks later, all were ill with a febrile respiratory disease. The physician saw this patient one day after the health alert and tested her for blastomycosis the same day.

Because of the early test and positive result, the three other women were all diagnosed with blastomycosis within two to three days, a process that often takes several weeks.

Here animals were sentinels of human disease, thanks to Walker Animal Hospital, Veterinary public health heroes.

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